The Navy’s deployable mine warfare (MIW) commander’s staff completed two weeks of underway training with allies and partners during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018, increasing interoperability, capability, and readiness among participating navies.
Commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) is the Navy’s global MIW commander and maintains a deployable operational staff that leads complex MIW missions in all numbered fleets.
BALTOPS is an annual joint, multinational maritime-focused exercise designed to provide training opportunities that increase flexibility and interoperability among participating nations. BALTOPS provided high-end training for allies and partners across the region to reassure and demonstrate NATO's long-term commitment to security in the Baltic Region. The exercise included mine clearance operations in advance of amphibious landings, along sea lines of communication and shipping lanes, and in approaches to ports and harbors.
Participating nations in BALTOPS included Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. In total, 43 maritime units, more than 60 aircraft, and a combined amphibious landing force participated. BALTOPS incorporated maritime, ground, and air forces to strengthen combined response capabilities necessary to ensure regional stability.
"BALTOPS is a great opportunity for us to rehearse mine countermeasure (MCM) operations with our partners and NATO allies, sharing practical hands-on training, identifying and mitigating mine warfighting challenges, and developing a greater understanding of the unique capabilities we all bring to the team," said Capt. Christopher Merwin, SMWDC MIW division director. "Training opportunities like this give us an advantage in real-world mine countermeasure operations because of the interoperability developed through learning, planning and operating as a coalition during these exercises."
The SMWDC mine warfare battle staff commanded the MCM task group, leading MCM efforts from Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20). The MCM task group included nearly half of the participating BALTOPS ships and six drones. Subordinate MCM commanders for the exercise included Rota, Spain-based Task Force (TG) 68, San Diego-based Mine Countermeasures Division 31 embarked in Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), Standing NATO Mine Countermeasure Group 1, and the Baltic MCM Squadron. The close cooperation of 16 nations’ MCM forces allowed exchange of tactics and procedures to safely and effectively defeat underwater explosives.
SMWDC’s mine warfare division is one of four divisions focused on MIW, amphibious warfare, integrated air and missile defense, and anti-submarine warfare/surface warfare. SMWDC is a subordinate command of commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet and exists to command and operationally control MIW forces in support of theater operations and to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the surface force across all domains.